Craig businesses see economic boost from I-70 closure | CraigDailyPress.com

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Craig businesses see economic boost from I-70 closure

A semi-truck leads a line of vehicles out of Craig on Thursday eastbound on U.S. Highway 40. For several days, motorists have detoured through Craig because of a rock slide closing parts of I-70. The detour has increased business for local gas stations and hotels.

Since an estimated 20 boulders fell Monday on Interstate 70 forcing the interstate to close, Craig has seen increased traffic.

The closure between Dotsero and Glenwood Springs had forced traffic north through Craig, but the Colorado Department of Transportation was able to open two lanes of traffic Thursday.

Craig police officer Norm Rimmer estimated the volume of traffic through Craig doubled with motorists trying to bypass the closure.

But traffic hasn't been the only thing to increase. Some businesses reported an economic boost stemming from the closure.

"It has definitely been a good thing," Gofer Foods cashier Tracy Knight said.

Knight said business at the Gofer Foods station at 923 E. Victory Way had doubled from normal with Monday being the best day.

Despite traffic increasing, Rimmer said officers didn't see a significant increase in traffic-related problems.

"Although our volume has gone up, we haven't had any related accidents with it," he said. "We haven't had a lot of problems with speed through the town. We haven't had a lot of tickets issued as a result of the volume, either."

Rimmer also said the department didn't staff any extra officers and hadn't heard any complaints from community members.

Randy Looper is one resident who isn't complaining, either.

Looper, co-owner of Elk Run Inn at 627 W. Victory Way, said business has been "huge" this week.

The Elk Run Inn was at 90 percent capacity Thursday and of the 23 people staying, 18 were motorists looping around the I-70 closure, Looper said.

Looper said the additional business was welcome considering February was the slowest in the six years he and his wife, Cindy, have owned it.

Knight is pleased the influx of customers to Gofer Foods were "in a really good mood."

"We haven't had anybody taking it out on the cashiers at all … that's kind of nice," she said. "You figure that everyone is having to go three hours out of their way, so by the time they get here, they're either going to be complacent, which is what they seem to be, or just mad as heck."

On Thursday afternoon, one lane opened for each direction of travel after CDOT began making repairs to broken sections of the highway, according to a press release.

The estimated 20-boulder slide that occurred around midnight Sunday left holes in the elevated sections of the road, the largest of which measured 20 feet by 10 feet. The largest boulder was estimated to weigh 66 tons, according to CDOT.

CDOT does not have an estimate of when traffic will be fully restored but said traffic will remain bound to two lanes until long-term repairs can be completed in the coming weeks or months, according to news press release.

Craig Chamber of Commerce Director Christina Currie said she doesn't think the detour has had a large impact on other Craig businesses besides gas and lodging.

"Our convenience stores, our hotels and our gas stations are hopefully really feeling a difference, other than that I don't foresee this having an impact on retail," she said.

While Currie is hopeful motorists will return as tourists, she remains realistic about the situation.

"This isn't really a ripe situation to pull tourists," she said. "People are going four or more hours out of their way. It's frustrating. It's time consuming. They're trying to get to whatever their destination is. They expected to get there, and having to come out of their way isn't something that really leaves happy feelings.

"So, you're hoping that they are driving up here thinking, 'Oh, this is beautiful,' but as far as stopping to check out the amenities we offer, we are not seeing that."